Secret Gardens of East Anglia

I delight in gardens that evolve from a basic initial, back of an envelope design, or around a particular local landscape that has been carefully included, and often enhanced, into the overall desired effect. I also find that the finest and most inspirational gardens have been created by gardeners who have learned all about plants that suit their place as they and their creating  have developed. This is why I find this book so delightful.

Some of the gardens I know well and provide adequate examples of my reasoning. Hunworth Hall, for instance, which I had the pleasure of visiting quite early in its development and which has evolved ‘piecemeal’ as Henry Crawley himself put it. East Ruston Old Vicarage where landmarks such as local churches and even the nearby Happisburgh lighthouse, have been brought right into the garden using hedge windows. Then there is Beth Chatto’s own garden where she herself says ” match plants to their own situation” and really where no other  garden shows off this simple piece of advice to better effect  than in her vastly diverse and challenging space.

Of course, we haven’t all got the size of plot that many of these gardens have been created over but even so most have individual features that can be incorporated into the smallest of areas. The Kitchen Garden of Tinkers Green Farm,Essex, the container collection at 38 Norfolk Terrace, Cambridge or even the stumpery in the rolling acres of Raveningham Hall, Norfolk, all small areas of inspiration in a much bigger picture.

The enduring beauty of all these gardens is the fact that they are individual and have been created by owners who may have had little experience of gardening prior to their starting off on each exciting adventure. Perhaps learning from mistakes made along the way yet with a passion, not necessarily knowing what the end results would be, to create a delightful vista here or a floral delight just there but most importantly, to their own liking.

Quality gardening like those we see in ‘Secret Gardens of East Anglia’ is an art form and very often to keen gardeners an improvement on nature itself. To be able to photograph and describe a good garden adequately is also an art and fortunately the mastery of the camera by Marcus Harpur and the delightful word skills of Barbara Segall are a combination that paints a perfect picture. Marcus has captured that special light of East Anglia which brought the likes of artists such as Crome, Cotman and Constable to this area while Barbara provides a detailed written tour taking in detailed history, owner methodology, striking plants and lots of other delightful features from each garden. Of course, this book could not have been written without the dedication of the gardeners themselves who created all of these gems in a very special area of the British Isles.

This book is an ideal reference for both the amateur and professional gardener alike and will undoubtedly provide those moments of inspiration when some part of ones own garden requires a lift. On the other hand, just to sit and browse through ‘Secret Gardens of East Anglia’ is, for me, a pleasure in itself.

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